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Posted: September 20, 2007
Purdue-led network awarded $18.25 million NSF grant to grow users, translate nanoscience into nanotechnology
(Nanowerk News) Purdue University's Network for Computational Nanotechnology has received a five-year, $18.25 million grant from the National Science Foundation to support the U.S. National Nanotechnology Initiative with expanded capabilities and services for computer simulations, NSF and Purdue officials announced Thursday.
The national network was launched in 2002 with $10.5 million from NSF to develop sophisticated, high-powered computational tools that allow scientists from Boston to Beijing to advance nano-related research simply by using their desktop computers.
"This additional funding will help us expand these sophisticated computational tools to researchers, educators and even industry," said network director Mark Lundstrom, Purdue's Scifres Distinguished Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering. "With the help of our five partner universities, we are growing beyond our roots in nanoelectronics to new areas such as nanofluidics, nanomedicine, nanophotonics and applications of nanoscience to the environment, energy, the life sciences and homeland security."
The project is based in Purdue's Discovery Park and includes partners at the University of California at Berkeley, the Molecular Foundry at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Norfolk State University, Northwestern University and the University of Texas at El Paso.
Mihail "Mike" Roco, the NSF's senior adviser for nanotechnology, said the project shows that the NSF is committed to working with the U.S. educational system and research institutions to ensure this nation fulfills the promise of nanotechnology and that its societal benefits are broadly and equitably distributed.
"The Network for Computational Nanotechnology at Purdue has become a leading knowledge open-source organization in the world, with a focus on nanoscale understanding, predictive simulations and education," Roco said. "It is an 'integrator' of disciplines, experts, networking capabilities, and areas of application around the same nanoscale principles and tools. The network also aims to be a model for creating simulations that go well beyond the field of nanotechnology. The network has reached out to other universities to build experimental tools that have become the benchmark for equipping researchers committed to advancing emerging nano-info-bio technologies."
The face for this global network is the nanoHUB, a free, Internet-based science gateway used by more than 3,000 national and international researchers and educators every month. In addition to online simulation services, the site's menu includes courses, tutorials, seminars, podcasts, user reviews of tools and content, and discussions on the topics of nanoelectronics, nanomedicine and nanomaterials, as well as facilities for global collaboration.
Use of the Web site has increased fivefold the past two years, pushing current traffic to more than 25,000 users. In the last 12 months, 5,700 users have run more than 220,000 simulations with 50 available simulation tools. Another 80 non-network affiliated researchers have cited the nanoHUB in their publications.
These simulations describe the tiniest, nearly atomic-scale building blocks of nanodevices as well as components that are visible to the naked eye. At the same time, these multiscale simulations are key to using nanotechnology research to design diagnostic devices for medicine, sensors for homeland security, environmental monitoring and other potential applications.
"The nanoHUB has proven to be an extremely valuable tool for education and research," said H.S. Philip Wong, a professor of electrical engineering at Stanford University. "We used the simulation tools on the site for homework exercises and mid-term exams. And the nanoHUB's staff has been very responsive in supporting our class activities in a professional manner."
Importantly, the site gives scientists and students access to resources that they would otherwise have to install and deploy themselves on their personal computers, said Gerhard Klimeck, a Purdue professor of electrical and computing engineering who leads the nanoHUB project.
"Beyond just accessibility, true usability of simulation tools and tutorials by non-specialists and our ability to deploy many tools rapidly have been the key elements to success," Klimeck said. "Our 'hub' is different from other portal technologies, which typically require significant rewrites of the science software for Web deployment. We can host sophisticated simulation engines on the Web as-is or develop powerful new interfaces in just days with our Rappture toolkit."
Current hot topics on the site include carbon nanotubes, nanotransistors, nanoelectronics and quantum dots. And Lundstrom and Klimeck say gateways focused on other disciplines, such as pharmacy, cancer and medical research, will be launched in the near future using the same technology.
"This project has been a real team effort at Purdue," Lundstrom said. "The College of Engineering, Information Technology at Purdue, and the Office of the Vice President for Research have worked side-by-side with us. We've benefited greatly by being part of Discovery Park and by our partnerships with the Birck Nanotechnology Center, the Cyber Center, and the e-Enterprise Center as well as the College of Science and Purdue's Computing Research Institute."